Reading The Wheel of Time

Reading the Wheel of Time: Dreams and Responsibilities in Robert Jordan’s The Shadow Rising (Part 17)

Hello dear friends and readers, and welcome back to the read of The Shadow Rising. I’d like to thank you all so much for your patience during our unexpected hiatus from Reading the Wheel of Time! We could have used some of that Aes Sedai healing in the Sylas household these past few weeks, if Moiraine had cared to stop by.

For those who may not have heard, my darling counterpart and Tor.com’s own Emmet Asher-Perrin had to have emergency brain surgery. Fortunately the problem was fixable and Emmet is on the mend now, but my time and brain space has been very much taken up with that and not with Rand and his problems.

But now things are getting back to normal and it feels great to return to Randland, as I have recently learned that fandom calls it. Some of you were helpful enough to inform me that Chapters 24 and 25 definitely should be tackled together, so this week we’re just going to ease back into things with Chapter 23, which, like the past few weeks, is full of talking and setup. But it’s very interesting talking and set up, and I am very excited to finally meet the Wise Ones, who have been waiting for us, and our intrepid travelers, in Rhuidean.

Hurray, we finally made it to Rhuidean!

 

Chapter 23 opens with Rand having just activated the portal stone. The ground tilts under everyone’s feet, causing chaos amongst the pack mules. Egwene immediately recognizes the heat of the Waste from when she felt it in Tel’aran’rhiod. She catches sight of a sand-blasted stone column that must be the other Portal Stone. In the distance, despite the unrelenting heat of the sun and even in the stone beneath her boots, she can see a valley filled with roiling fog, the tops of towers and spires sticking out from it.

Mat expresses his astonishment that they’re alright, but Egwene catches sight of Rand on the ground and moves over to him as Lan helps him to his feet. Rand looks as pale as death, but he’s pleased that he did it. Just barely, as Moiraine points out, but he did it. Moiraine is angry at him for taking such a chance, but Rand argues that Mat is the one who takes chances, and in any case, it worked. Lan quietly agrees that this is all that matters.

But when Moiraine heals Rand, giving him at least enough strength back to stand up on his own, Rand pulls away and roughly tells her to ask first. Egwene is surprised when Lan doesn’t tell Rand off for speaking to Moiraine in such a way.

They then notice that the Aiel have gone completely still, and are staring away from the fog valley towards two nearby camps. They seem tense, but then a woman’s voice from higher up calls out the words “The peace of Rhuidean,” and they seem to relax again, lowering their veils.

Four women descend the slope down to meet them, and Egwene recognizes Amys among them. The eldest of them spreads her arms and commands the peace of Rhuidean upon all who come to Chaendaer, and the Aiel begin to disperse, breaking up into clans and taking their pack mules and spoils of battle with them. One of the Wise Ones stops Aviendha from leaving; Egwene wants to go to her, but Moiraine advises against it. Aviendha does look like she would prefer to be left alone, but Egwene herself would have liked to be standing closer to her friend. The Aiel in the encampments are all watching, and they do not look friendly. She feels exposed and vulnerable under those eyes and the blistering heat, but resolves to accept the situation as long as Moiraine and Lan appear calm.

Rhuarc climbs up the slope to meet Amys, who tells him she knew that he would be back today, and Egwene realizes that this is what Moiraine meant about Dreaming. Moiraine admits that the Wise Ones wrote in their letter that they would all meet on Chaendaer today, and that once she saw Rand’s determination to take the Portal Stone, she began to believe it.

A man comes out of each of the camps, and Rhuarc addresses one of them, Heirn. Although Moiraine and Egwene do not understand the conversation, Lan leans down to translate.

A Wise One can go anywhere safely, into any hold regardless of clan. I think not even blood feud touches a Wise One. This Heirn came to protect Rhuarc from whoever the other camp is, but it would not be honorable to say it.” Moiraine lifted one eyebrow a trifle, and he added, “I don’t know much of them, but I fought them often before I met you. You have never asked me about them.”

“I will remedy that,” the Aes Sedai said dryly.

Lan takes time to give both women something to drink, pours more water over their heads, and gives instructions for the two, as well as Rand and Mat, to tie wet scarves over their foreheads. He cautions that the heat can kill if you are not used to it.

Rhuarc and The Wise Ones have a conversation with a man named Couladin, whose leader is currently in Rhuidean, and who intends to try himself if his leader does not return The Wise Ones tell him that it is only his right to ask to go, and that they decide whether or not to say yes. He is angry, but they tell him that he probably won’t be allowed to go even if he does ask, since he is “flawed within.” Egwene is surprised at the man’s display of anger, and reminded of the Congars and Coplins back home. She resolves to keep an eye out for him.

Amys then turns her attention to Rand, who steps up to her and makes a strange bow.

“By the right of blood,” he said, “I ask leave to enter Rhuidean, for the honor of our ancestors and the memory of what was.”

Amys blinked in evident surprise, and Bair murmured, “An ancient form, but the question has been asked. I answer yes.”

“I also answer yes, Bair,” Amys said. “Seana?”

Couladin breaks in, insisting that Rand is no Aiel and that it is death for him to stand where he is. He demands to know why Rhuarc has brought him, but Bair cuts him off, telling him to be silent when a Wise One speaks. Rand, sounding strained, tells them that his mother was an Aiel, but Amys corrects him, telling him that it was his father. Seana and the fourth Wise One, Melaine, also answer yes, although with some reluctance.

Amys turns back to Rand and begins to speak to him when Mat scrambles up beside him, copying Rand’s bow and asking permission to enter as well. Egwene is shocked, Rand visibly too, but Couladin moves at once, stabbing a spear at Mat’s chest. Egwene sees the glow of saidar surround Amys and Melaine as they throw the man backwards with flows of air. Then she realizes what she should have known all along, that at least two of the Wise Ones can channel. This is why Amys’s features, smooth and close to Aes Sedai agelessness, had confused her so much. Still, she can tell Moiraine is just as surprised as Egwene herself is.

Melaine sends the man away, and Heirn and Rhuarc as well. After a moment, Amys tells Mat that he is not permitted, that he doesn’t understand what he has done, and that he must go back to the group. But Mat is insistent, saying that he’s come all this way already but that it doesn’t count, and that he has to go to Rhuidean. Rand even suggests that he can take Mat with him, that his permission should extend to anyone he chooses to invite along. But Melaine repeats that the law is clear; no woman can to to Rhuidean more than twice, no man more than once, and none who do not have Aiel blood in their veins.

Seana shook her head. “Much is changing, Melaine. The old ways…”

“If he is the one,” Bair said, “the Time of Change is upon us. Aes Sedai stand on Chaendaer, and Aan’allein with his shifting cloak. Can we hold to the old ways still? Knowing how much is to change?”

Amys says that they cannot hold against the change, and after a moment Melaine agrees. Amys asks for their names. She then tells Rand that he must go to the very center of Rhuidean, and that Mat may go with him if he wishes. But she warns that most men who enter Rhuidean’s heart do not come back, and some return mad. She also adds that they cannot carry food or water, “in remembrance of our wanderings after the Breaking” and must go unarmed “to honor the Jenn.”

They have the boys divest themselves of their weapons and leave them on the ground. The Wise Ones recite formally how they are pledged to Rhuidean, which belongs to the dead, and that the dead do not speak to the living. They cover themselves with their shawls and stand with their faces hidden, waiting. Eventually Rand and Mat get the hint, and with a reassuring smile from Rand and a few quips from Mat, they turn and start down towards the valley.

Eventually, when Rand and Mat are only small shapes in the distance, the Wise Ones lower their shawls. Egwene goes up to try to speak to Amys, but is cut off as Amys addresses Lan, telling him that this is woman’s business now, and to go off with Rhuarc. At Moiraine’s nod, Lan departs.

Moiraine asks about the name the Wise Ones have been using for Lan, Aan’allein, which means One Man, and they explain that they know of him, the last of the Malkieri, the man “who will not give up his war against the Shadow, though his nation is long destroyed by it.” They see much honor in Lan, and mention that they knew that he would probably come with the group, although they did not know that he obeyed Moiraine.

Moiraine explains that he is her Warder, but Egwene is mostly struck by the fact that the Wise Ones had not seen Lan’s coming with them as an absolute certainty, and had not seen their coming as an absolutely certainty, either. She wonders if interpreting isn’t as easy as she had hoped, but she doesn’t get the chance to ask because Aviendha is up next.

Although Aviendha declares that she is a Maiden of the Spear and does not want to be a Wise one, Amys tells her that she has already been treated gently. When Amys refused to give up her spear, she explains, her spear sisters broke it before her eyes and brought her to Coedelin themselves, naked and bound. Bair reminisces how Amys often tried to run away, and Amys agrees that she was not as tough as she had believed herself to be. But she learned her duty in time, and tells Aviendha that women like them have an obligation to the people.

Egwene realizes that Aviendha has the spark, too, realizes that she has always felt that in her connection with Aviendha. Realizing that Moiraine must know too, Egwene is surprised to find that, for the first time, she can sense the ability in Moiraine as well.

The Wise Ones observe that Moiraine wanted to take Aviendha to the White Tower, and remind her that Aviendha is Aiel. Moiraine retorts that Aviendha is very strong with the One Power, and could reach that potential in the White Tower. But the Wise Ones counter that they will train her, and better than in White Tower, where they coddle their women. Egwene is alarmed for Aviendha’s future experience, if life in the Tower is considered coddling by the Wise Ones

They make Aviendha give them her weapons and clothes, tossing each item away like trash—causing Aviendha to flinch each time—and saying that she must come to see the things as trash. She will burn them if she returns, giving up the metal from her weapons to make simple tools or toys for children. Even her clothes have to go; Aviendha is to be sent naked into Rhuidean.

“In Rhuidean,” Amys said, “you will find three rings, arranged so.” She drew three lines in the air, joining together in the middle. “Step through any one. You will see your future laid before you, again and again, in variation. They will not guide you wholly, as is best, for they will fade together as do stories heard long ago, yet you will remember enough to know some things that must be, for you, despised as they may be, and some that must not, cherished hopes that they are. This is the beginning of being called wise. Some women never return from the rings; perhaps they could not face the future. Some who survive the rings do not survive their second trip to Rhuidean, to the heart. You are not giving up a hard and dangerous life for a softer, but for a harder and more dangerous.”

Egwene realizes that Amys is describing a ter’angreal. She is even more surprised by that than when Melaine gives Aviendha a few words of encouragement, telling her that a strong mind and heart are her weapons now, and telling her that she has the strength to make it through.

With a bit of a quip about outrunning the men, Aviendha gives Egwene’s hand a squeeze and sets off towards the misty city. Egwene thinks that what Aviendha is about to do must be like being raised to Accepted without having any Novice training first. She thinks of how Nynaeve’s experience seems to be at least partly responsible for her dislike of the Aes Sedai. She looks after Aviendha, thinking of the words she was told when she went through the ter’angreal in the White Tower. “Come back to us. Be steadfast.”

Amys remarks that they have been hasty, because of how long Aviendha has put off coming to them, and because they feared some of the Aiel, like the Shaido, might don veils if things didn’t happen quickly, before they had time to think. Rand is one of them, and possibly He Who Comes With the Dawn, but they also sent Mat into Rhuidean, and allowed other outsiders to stay. Now that the boys and Aviendha are taken care of, they offer Moiraine and Egwene shelter and refreshment.

They are brought to a shady tent, furnished with cushions and layered carpets. They exchange a formal greeting over water, after which the Wise Ones seem to relax. Moiraine asks about the Aiel in white robes and hoods who are serving them, and is given a pared down explanation of the gai’shain, those who are taken prisoner in battle by being touched by their opponent while armed. Moiraine and Egwene don’t really understand the explanation, except that it has to do with the Aiel sense of honor, and that those taken gai’shain seem to take the honor as seriously as those whom they are required to serve, for a year and a day. They also learn that certain people—blacksmiths, Wise Ones, children, pregnant women or those with a child younger than ten—cannot be taken this way, and that there is a cultural understanding that what happens while gai’shain does not affect the honor of either the captor nor the gai’shain, and that honor and status returns to normal after the year and a day has elapsed.

They move on to the subject of dreamwalking, as Moiraine inquires how certain they had been of what they wrote in their letter to her.

Amys sighed and set aside her cup of wine, but it was Bair who spoke. “Much is uncertain, even to a dreamwalker. Amys and Melaine are the best of us, and even they do not see all that is, or all that can be.”

“The present is much clearer than the future even in Tel’aran’rhiod,” the sun-haired Wise One said. “What is happening or beginning is more easily seen than what will happen, or may. We did not see Egwene or Mat Cauthon at all. It was no more than an even chance that the young man who calls himself Rand al’Thor would come. If he did not, it was certain that he would die, and the Aiel too. Yet he has come, and if he survives Rhuidean, some of the Aiel at least will survive. This we know. If you had not come, he would have died. If Aan’allein had not come, you would have died. If you do not go through the rings—” She cut off as if she had bitten her tongue.

Egwene is shocked and curious at the suggestion that Moiraine must enter Rhuidean, but Seana picks up the explanation, to cover the apparent slip, explaining that the future is not set, and that in Tel’aran’rhiod it is possible to see some of the ways the future might be woven, but not all, and not for certain.

Moiraine remarks that the Old Tongue can be difficult to translate and goes off on an apparent tangent about the ways of interpreting the meaning of Tel’aran’rhiod, of aan’allein, the word the Wise One used for Lan, and others. She mentions that the translation of Aiel means “dedicated” but that it implies something stronger than that, an “oath written into your bones.” She has often wondered what the Aiel are dedicated to, and observes, too, that Jenn Aiel might translate to “the only true dedicated.”

Egwene observes the stony looks that the Wise Ones are giving Moiraine and tries to change the subject to dreaming, but Amys tells her she must wait until the sun begins to set. Meanwhile, Moiraine begins to undress, as she assumes she must go as Aviendha did. Seana says that she should not have been told, but that it is too late now. Each time they saw this fate for Moiraine, it was she who demanded to go, but already things are different from anything they saw. They refuse to tell Moiraine more, or what they saw if she does not go, and say that knowing too much of the future brings disaster.

“It is the mercy of the rings that the memories fade,” Amys said. “A woman knows some things—a few—that will happen; others she will not recognize until the decision is upon her, if then. Life is uncertainty and struggle, choice and change; one who knew how her life was woven into the Pattern as well as she knew how a thread was laid into a carpet would have the life of an animal. If she did not go mad. Humankind is made for uncertainty, struggle, choice and change.”

Before she goes, Moiraine tells them not to let Lan follow her, to which Bair replies that it will be as it will be. Moraine sets off, and Egwene asks if Moiraine will survive. There are some places, they tell her, that are shielded from a dreamwalker’s eyes. The Ogier steddings are one such place. Rhuidean is another.

Egwene reluctantly asks if she should go as well, but they tell her no. They have not seen that for her, or even seen her at all, and would not give permission if she were to ask. Egwene presses them to begin teaching her instead, and they agree, with Amys instructing Egwene that she must forget that she is Aes Sedai and must listen and obey them, not even entering Tel’aran’rhiod again until she has permission. Egwene, since she is only pretending that she is a full Aes Sedai, imagines she must be able to do so, and agrees.

Bair tells her that she must listen and repeat what she is told, and if she fails to remember everything, she’ll be set to scrubbing pots. There’s an implication that a second failure will result in worse punishment, as well.

They begin explaining, and Egwene listens intently, fascinated, but also a little resentful that she is the only one of the party who might be punished with hard labor. It doesn’t seem fair. On the other hand, however, she is certain she can learn as much from these women as any of them can find in Tel’aran’rhiod.

 

Oof! This is one of those weeks where I feel like I’m writing way too much in the recap section, but everything that comes up here feels like it’s very important, or will be at some point later in the story. Jordan really knew how to pack a lot into a single chapter, didn’t he?

What I’m most excited about in this chapter is that someone in-universe has finally made some definitive comments about how destiny works in The Wheel of Time. Several times in the course of this read, I’ve expressed questions about the nature of fate vs. free will in this universe, and whether or not people are actually choosing their own destiny or merely being woven along by the Wheel. Some of the characters, Rand and Perrin mostly, have also asked similar questions, while Moiraine has offered certain explanations: She’s outlined the purpose of ta’veren, for example, and she has illustrated her understanding of how the Pattern will accommodate small changes people might want to make, but not big ones. In The Eye of the World, she let us know that it might be possible for the Dark One to get free enough to touch and influence the Pattern and how it is being woven. Also, more personally, she has sometimes expressed almost contradictory opinions on how much the Pattern is responsible for one’s fate. She’s clearly of the belief that Rand’s fate isn’t set in stone, since she believes she should be able to direct his choices and is frustrated when she cannot. At the same time, however, she is fond of that phrase “the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills,” which shows, at least in theory, an understanding that much of the future and fate is directed, rather than chosen.

Now, however, we have Amys putting the idea of the future and its possibilities in slightly different terms, as she explains a dreamwalker’s relationship to Tel’aran’rhiod and understanding the present and future from what one sees there. Amys specifically states that there was only a slim chance that Rand would come to Rhuidean, that Lan was only probably going to accompany them. I think the use of the word “chance” here is meant to reflect more than the fact that reading the future is difficult. The results were not predestined.

The way the Wise Ones talk about the future and reading the Pattern uses a sort of “if, then” formula. If Rand survives Rhuidean, then at least some of the Aiel will survive. If Moiraine had not come, then Rand would have died. We see that the Pattern is being woven as events unfold, rather than being preset from beginning to end. When one strand falls into place, it shapes the others around it. When a single thread is pulled, the others attached to it ripple and rearrange.

Egwene observes here that it is difficult for Moiraine to submit to the authority of the Wise Ones, even just enough to be lectured by them. Indeed, it’s even hard for Egwene, who is still an Accepted, despite the subterfuge she’s been using about being Green Ajah. (I wonder if Moiraine would be at least a little less annoyed if Egwene had chosen to tell people she was Blue Ajah.) As the events of the Dragon’s return unfold, more and more things are outside Moiraine’s knowledge and control, as I observed in the last post when she reluctantly agreed to trust Rand’s decision making, at least for the time being.

But it’s not just Rand. We are now encountering societies who train their channelers away from the White Tower, first with the revelation about the Sea Folk Windfinders, and now as we learn that some Wise Ones are channelers. It really surprised me that Moiraine hadn’t figured that part out. It’s implied that she has a suspicion about the Sea Folk, and they even send some of their weaker channelers to the White Tower to keep the Aes Sedai off their scent. There are no Aiel in Tar Valon—do the Aes Sedai assume there are no women born with the spark in all of the Waste? Moiraine may have known or guessed that dreamwalking is not a skill driven by the One Power (a revelation to me) but even so, I would have thought she would have suspected more once she received that letter. She knew Aviendha had the spark, and must have wondered if any other Aiel did, and what happened to Aiel women who would eventually touch saidar whether they meant to or not.

I was also struck by Rand’s reaction to Moiraine healing him after his use of the Portal Stone. Not that he was upset by it—he’s had that reaction before—but his command to her to ask first is an important acknowledgement of the fact that Aes Sedai have no concept of consent. They are accustomed to knowing more, and having more power and authority, than those around them. They expect to be obeyed without question, to always be in power, and to always be right. When they are not acknowledged as such it is because of fear and superstition, which in its turn only enforces the idea that only the foolish or evil would reject their authority.

We see this even within their own ranks, in the way that novices and Accepted are treated, and in some of the military-escue hierarchies of the White Tower. Even Egwene and Nynaeve have begun to express very Aes Sedai opinions on such matters—here, when Rand protests, Egwene thinks of him as being childish and ungrateful. She has had her own experience having her autonomy and self-determination removed, and although the occasional laying of Aes Sedai hands is hardly comparable to the slavery of the a’dam, there is a connection: Having one’s body manipulated without consent is still a violation, even if that manipulation is meant to help and heal.

Egwene was surprised when Lan didn’t tell Rand off for the way that he spoke to Moiraine, but I wasn’t. Lan, of all people, is in a perfect position to understand Rand’s feelings on this matter, as he himself bumps up against the limitations of his own ability to consent to Aes Sedai control. Lan chose to be Moiraine’s Warder, of course, and knew the conditions into which he was entering, but it’s also significant, I think, that while an Aes Sedai could choose to alter or abolish the terms of the Warder/Aes Sedai bond, a Warder cannot, even should he come to change his mind down the road. And so it cannot be true consent, because it cannot be revoked once given.

It sounds like Moiraine has never used her bond to force Lan to do anything before, given their conversation about it in Chapter 22 of The Great Hunt. And he has always chosen, of his own free will, to obey her. She even leaves him enough room that he could manage to defy her, as we see when he offers to go with Nynaeve to Tanchico, and when Moiraine asks the Wise Ones not to let him follow her. Still, the fact remains that she has the ability to compel obedience, that she has actually arranged to compel him in the eventuality of her death. These issues have begun to chafe for Lan. The leash, as Moiraine calls it, has begun to chafe.

And lest we give Moiraine too much credit for her ultimate intention of having Lan be passed on to Nynaeve, let us remember that she could have told Lan about her plan. The fact that she doesn’t, the fact that she deliberate prods at him, testing his reaction and resolve, hurting him on purpose, shows that she believes in this supreme authority she has. She doesn’t feel she owes Lan an explanation, and she would see his obedience ensured without offering any justification to him, any softening of the blow. He is her Warder, his will ultimately belongs to her, even if he wishes it didn’t.

But then, perhaps that is the point. Perhaps it bothers Moiraine more because she wishes she could have the undying loyalty that came without a bond. She admits to herself that she is jealous of Nynaeve; Moiraine isn’t in love with Lan but he has been her confidant and her protector for a long time. This is a bond as strong as the one she has with him through the One Power, and perhaps she resents the changes that Nynaeve has wrought between them. She will use the tools she has left, the bond she has left, as the undying loyalty that he gave willingly begins to erode away.

And how, then, could Lan not empathize with Rand, who Moiraine believes she must lead and control? Sure, she’s only attempting it because the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but Lan is aware that such motivations might not make Rand’s leash chafe any less. Lan can understand that, since he believes in what Moiraine is doing much more than Rand does, but even that is no longer enough to compel him to accept everything without question.

Some of my lasting confusion about Rand’s parentage has also been cleared up this week by comments from the Wise Ones, who have definitively clarified that it was Rand’s father, not his mother, who was Aiel. My earlier deduced theory, that Tigraine, former heir to the throne of Caemlyn, is Rand’s mother seems to be correct. What confused me is the physical descriptions of the Aiel and of Rand’s resemblance to them. They have light eyes and hair, and several of the Aiel have been described as having red-gold hair, but then, so does Elayne. I confused the idea that Rand looks like an Aiel but also like his mother, and the fact that Tigraine and Elayne are familiarly related further confused me about which traits were hereditary, although of course I realize that there is no blood relation between the two.

There was also the peace that existed between Cairhien and the Aiel prior to the cutting down of the chora tree and the resulting Aiel War, which seems to have been an unprecedented relationship for the Aiel to have with another nation. I had assumed there was some blood kinship with the ruling family of Cairhien that engendered such closeness, but it seems now that this is not the case. The true reason for it, for now, remains unclear to me.

I’ve also finally put together some thoughts on the fact that the Old Tongue, or remnants of it at least, exists everywhere in The Wheel of Time, even amongst the Seanchan. I don’t know why, but I was kind of thinking of it as the language of the old Aes Sedai, specifically, but obviously it belonged to more than them. The prevalence of Old Tongue words in every society seems to suggest that the language was once spoken by everyone, prior to the Breaking—a universal tongue, or at least one that was so widespread as to have an influence in all parts of the world.

I wonder if this was due to Artur Hawkwing’s conquering of nearly all the world. Or, perhaps, the level of technology and One Power-driven development was such that the lands became deeply interconnected, facilitating the need for, and development of, a common tongue. I find that really interesting, and it also makes me wonder what tongue is being spoken now. I don’t remember there being mention of a “common tongue” or something similar, but I may have missed it early on. And we have yet to encounter a people who didn’t speak a language that the Two Rivers folk could understand.

Jordan is also continuing here with this theme of painful, harsh military training in the development of channelers. Not all Wise Ones have the ability to channel, of course, but as we see with Aviendha, those born with the spark are compelled to the life, even more than they are in the White Tower, where women are only forced to stay until they are trained enough to not be a danger to themselves or others. (Not that I imagine they would let a promising woman go easily, if it came right down to it.) And the Wise Ones call life in the White Tower soft, to boot.

However, this chapter acknowledges the problems with this way of thinking more than the narrative has so far. Egwene is aware that some of Nynaeve’s hostility toward the Aes Sedai was born from her experience in the three-arched ter’angreal. This matches with what I have previously observed: Certain aspects of Aes Sedai training might create rifts between women in the Tower that adversely affect their working relationships when they become full-fledged Aes Sedai. Of course, Nynaeve could have chosen to spend time as a novice, but the harsh, even demeaning treatment that came with that rank was something that would have embittered her to the Aes Sedai just as much, I think. And Nynaeve is aware of the means that were used against her, to force that choice.

However much Amys and the others insist that Aviendha must view her former possessions, her former life, as trash, I remember a few chapters back when we found Amys taking time in Tel’aran’rhiod to play at being a Maiden again. I don’t think she would do that if she truly saw that time of her life in such a negative light.

What, then, is the purpose of this injunction? Aviendha could be taught to move beyond her attachment to her former life and possessions in a number of ways, and there is a pragmatism in the Aiel way of life that would fit well with, for example, a Buddhist approach. The concept of non-attachment in Buddhism does not pass judgment on things, it simply teaches one to let go of them, because things—objects, possessions, people, even thoughts—actually can’t be held on to, and there is only suffering to be found in trying. So it is for Aviendha, whose attachment to being a Maiden (she says it is all she wants, all she has ever wanted) causes her great pain because she will not or cannot be allowed to remain one.

Do all Wise Ones have disdain for professions not their own, or for the lives they lived before? That hardly seems likely. I’m just not sure what lesson there is in Aviendha being compelled to this line of thought, other than the suggestion that suffering makes one stronger. The Aiel are big on strength and the fact that they are forged in hardship, but this just seems a pointless addition. Also, it would make more sense to me from a storytelling perspective to differentiate the Wise Ones from the Aes Sedai in more dramatic ways than that they’re harsher or tougher or whatever.

Granted, there may be plot reasons for this similarity in approach that hasn’t been revealed yet. There is still a lot of mystery to the Aiel, but it’s become clear that they have an important connection to events that seems to reach back to who they were before the Breaking. I think that this is the trail that Moiraine is on when she interrogates the meaning of Aiel as “dedicated” and Jenn Aiel as “true dedicated.”

Speaking of Moiraine and Aviendha: I’m sorry but why do the women have to go naked and not the men? I mean I know it’s because the men don’t have to go through a ter’angreal while in Rhuidean, but like… the women could have taken their clothes off once they got down there? And from a storytelling standpoint, why arrange things this way at all? Or why not say that people have to be naked to go through the redstone doorway? Or into Tel’aran’rhiod? It just seems very convenient that these particular ter’angreal, used exclusively by the main women in the story, require nudity.

I mean, the descriptions of Aviendha and Moiraine aren’t gratuitous or anything, but it still feels weird. I guess there’s an implied suggestion here that we’re being shown the stoicism of how Moiraine and Aviendha handle their enforced nudity? But again, when this test is applied only to women, it feels deliberate as a storytelling choice, and I don’t love it.

But that’s a small criticism, really, and it doesn’t make me less excited for next week. My plan for next week is to cover Chapters 24-26, covering just the part that Mat experiences; so everything from Chapter 24 and then the end of Chapter 26. The following week I’ll go back and cover Rand’s side of things and his adventures into the Aiel’s true history… and his own. There is so much to cover here my friends, and while I guessed a few things from the context clues we were given, I have to say, this all broke my brain a little.

So join us next week as we journey with Mat and Rand into that mysterious mist.

Mist-erious, if you will.

And in the meantime, y’all can check out the Doctor Who recaps if you’re interested, as I’ll be helping out with those for the next month or so! Emmet and I are doing it together in a sort of chat style, and I think we’re pretty cute. Not to mention nerdy.

Sylas K Barrett gets it. Moiraine just wants Nynaeve to get dunked in a pond.

citation

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